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Wednesday, 7 December 1938

Mr JAMES (Hunter) (2:48 AM) .Although I do not like speaking on the motion for the adjournment of the House at this hour of the morning, I feel obliged to do so. I asked the Minister administering External Territories (Mr. Harrison) a question relating to New Guinea, and he requested me to place it on the notice-paper. I have received a letter dealing with the subject to which I shall refer, a copy of which, I understand, has been forwarded to the Minister. It is to the effect that a great disservice is being done to Australia at present in consequence of the fact that a system of slavery of the natives is being operated in the Territory of New Guinea, over which Australia holds a mandate from the League of Nations. My purpose in referring to the subject now is to rectify, if possible, a most unfortunate situation. J asked the Minister whether he was aware of the exploitation of the natives of New Guinea by .plantation owners and others, who were being allowed to enslave these people. I also asked whether he was aware that an ordinance had been rushed through the Legislative Council of New Guinea in deference to the wishes of these exploiters of the native people. The purpose of the ordinance I am informed, is primarily to prevent complaints by the natives from being brought before the authorities in such a way as to force them to take action. Provision is made for a penalty to be imposed upon any person who causes discontent between « native and his employer. I have received a letter from Mrs. J. Wallace - who sent a similar communication to the present Minister in Charge of Commonwealth Territories - in which she claims that she has, on several occasions, written to the Minister previously controlling the department. In the communication, dated the '1st December, she directed attention to the outbreak of an epidemic of measles and to the fact that natives were dying like dogs. She also cited a case in which a native, Manual To Kone, was sentenced to imprisonment for five years for having, with two others, stolen some whisky. This person, she states, has been in prison for over four years, and she has written to Mr. Page, the Acting Administrator asking that he be released. The Acting Adminstrator claimed that she has exaggerated the position and suggested that her letter should be couched in different terms. The letter from Mrs. Wallace read -

A native named To Kakia of Tavui, north coast, has come hero to-day to ask my son's help in getting his brother, named Manual To Kone, out of prison. As my son is very ill at liresent, I am taking up the matter for To Kakia. He says that Manual was working at Salamaua (T think he means the goldfields) when three of them stole sonic whisky and bid it in the hush. They were found guilty and sentenced to imprisonment, each for five years in the

Rabaul calaboose. To Kakia says his brother is now in his fifth year of imprisonment, something well over four years having been served, and To Kakia would like very much if you would free him now on a promise of good behaviour. He, To Kakia., would give that guarantee as well.

He tells me that one of the three convicted natives, name To Wutu, of Wodup, died whilst in prison. He says he beard To Wutu had been beaten to death by police-boys. Anyway, the story is worth investigating.

To Kakia lost his wife the other day, which reminds me. Do you know that measles with pneumonia supervening has .been sweeping through the country for months, taking toll of hundreds (perhaps thousands) of natives without medical aid and without quarantine? I. wrote to Dr. Brennan on the 17th September, I!)ii8. What do your three government doctors in Rabaul do all day and every day?

The reply from the Acting Administrator read -

I have to acknowledge your letter of the 21st November, 1938, relative to the native prisoner Manual To Kone, and to inform yon that your representations will receive due consideration and that you will be advised of my decision in duc course, in view of your repeated assurances that you arc anxious to be of assistance to natives, may ]. suggest that your purpose could better be served if representations made on their behalf were couched in more reasonable terms and were admitted without the reviling language which can only have the effect of clouding the whole issue. The Administration has for its policy the promotion to the utmost of the material and moral well-being and the social progress of all the inhabitants, both indigenous and nonindigenous of the Territory, and is glad to have the co-operation of all individuals and societies that have a similar objective, and if you have a genuine desire towards this end we shall be glad to have your co-operation also. It is regretted that many of your representations in the past as in this ease would appear to have been made an excuse for destructive rather than constructive criticism, and have been couched in language that cannot he accepted in official communications. You may be assured that if you could give more evidence of your bona fides in those cases much better results would be achieved.

In reply to that communication she contended that the language which she had employed was not in any way reviling. In 1932, I brought under the notice of the Government the case of a native who h'ad been beaten to death by a plantation owner. If honorable members will refer to the Rabaul Times of the 4th December, 1931, they will see the judge's summing-up in which it was stated that the native had been beaten to death in an unmerciful manner without just cause. This native Sambung, was requested by his master to deliver a launch to another plantation-owner and return by the Monday, and also to give the launch a trial run in order to make sure that it was in perfect order. The murderer of Sambung was sentenced by Judge Wanliss, on the 23rd November, 1931, to ten years' imprisonment. I shall refer to this later.

This plantation-owner, although imprisoned for murder was released from prison early in 1936, and is now in South Africa, but the unfortunate native who stole whisky was sentenced to five years imprisonment and is still in gaol. I wish now to contrast the treatment meted out to natives and Europeans. In the Rabaul Times of the 17 th December, 1937, the following paragraph appears: -

A native indentured as a carpenter was sentenced to three years' imprisonment with hard labourfor entering a Chinese store and stealing therefrom £25 5s.

The following paragraph also appeared in a cutting forwarded to me by Mrs. Wallace ofRabaul : -

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